Nusratullo Maksum (also known as Nusratullo Lutfullayev) (1881-1937), Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of Tajikistan

Lotte Jacobi, Portrait of Nusratullo Maksum (Nusratullo Lutfullayev), Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

In addition to Abdurakhim Khodzhibaev, the first Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan, Lotte Jacobi had other important contacts in Stalinabad, including Nusratullo Maksum, Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of Tajikistan. In her Daybook, she recorded that she saw him sometime in the period between November 26- December 3, 1932. As was the case with Khodzhibaev, Jacobi accompanied Maksum to Intourist sites of interest, such as a new silk factory, and photographed Maksum with his family. Her photographs emphasize his humanity, rather than the fact that he was in charge of the inhumane process of forcibly relocating rural Tajiks from his home oblast of Gharm to work in cotton cultivation on state collective farms.

Unknown photographer, Lotte Jacobi Photographing Nusratullo Maksum (in a government building?), Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

Maksum’s modest beginnings were seemingly not conducive to his future rise to a position of leadership in Tajikistan. Born July 1, 1881, Maksum was a native of Gharm, a province and city in Tajikistan, but he was raised in Kokand, Uzbekistan (“Nusratullo Maksum,” Khalid 303). His parents were peasants; in his early years, Maksum worked on the family farm. As a teenager, he also worked in a factory in Kokand. Maksum joined the Bukharan Communist Party following the end of the Revolution. As the Soviet Union continued to adjust its strategy for dealing with the web of oblasts (administrative regions in the USSR), SSRs, protectorates, and colonies in Asia, it became clear that having native members of the population in charge would be preferable to ethnic Russians. Although he had only a few years of schooling, Maksum was a good option in this case due to his native Tajik roots, as well as his party membership.

Lotte Jacobi, Nustratullo Maksum, a Tajikistani Soviet politician, outside a Silk Factory, Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

Lotte Jacobi, Nustratullo Maksum Holding a Hank of Silk, Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

Maksum held a number of positions central to the establishment and development of Tajikistan. He assumed the position of Chairman of the Tajik Executive Committee in 1924 (Bashiri 104). At that time, Tajikistan was still an autonomous oblast within Bukhara (later Uzbekistan), so Maksum and the Executive Committee had limited power. In his position, he traveled to Tashkent to inquire about increasing Tajik influence in the Territorial Divisions Committee. This visit ended in failure, and the autonomous oblast would continue to exist until 1929, when Tajikistan became an SSR (89). However, Maksum was instrumental in another plan, one to increase agricultural production.

Lotte Jacobi, Profile of Mrs. Maksum, Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

Lotte Jacobi, Mrs. Maksum and Two ChildrenStalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

Prior to the beginning of the First Five-Year Plan in 1928, a proposal was made to resettle ethnic Tajiks from Gharm to the fertile Vakhsh Valley to work on cotton farms. The central government of the Soviet Union saw the Tajiks as a weak, oppressed ethnic group in the region (Kassymbekova 57). With a large population in Gharm, many Tajiks had been forced into the mountains due to inter-tribal conflict. They had established towns, created farmland, and built permanent dwellings. As Botakoz Kassymbekova has written, “The Bolsheviks perceived a settled lifestyle [such as that of the Tajiks in Gharm] to be more progressive than a nomadic one and the agricultural economy more useful for the Soviet project” (58). With this belief in mind, combined with the advocacy of Nusratullo Maksum, a government-directed resettlement plan was recommended (60). The plan would last five years and aimed to resettle 21,500 households from the mountains in Gharm to the Vakhsh Valley (58). The plan envisioned that the population of nomadic Turkic tribes in the Vakhsh Valley would be compounded by the arrival of 70,000 Tajiks from Gharm (Teichmann 227, Kassymbekova 60). Maksum, as Chairman of the Executive Committee, took charge of this resettlement plan.

Lotte Jacobi, Daughter of Nustratullo Maksum, Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

Lotte Jacobi, Two children of Nustratullo Maksum, Stalinabad, Tajikistan, ca. November 26-December 3, 1932

As with many of the other forced resettlements undertaken by the Soviet Union, the Tajik resettlement was not as extensive as planned, and it was painful for those involved. As Kassymbekova has written, “The ethnicization of resettlement, territories, and resources…produced conflicts that increasingly came to be articulated in ethnic terms, mapped onto class” (Kassymbekova 61) One of the goals of the Five-Year Plan in Tajikistan was to utilize the many rivers within the republic to reclaim 50,000 hectares of desert land, which included the construction of a sluice into the Vakhsh river (Teichmann 229). The construction of the sluice suffered, as poor planning and conflicts impeded the ambitious schedule set forth. To further complicate matters, Maksum’s leadership was called into question when people learned that he was using violent measures against his own people during the resettlement. “In 1930, during a meeting of the Central Committee, Maksum was rebuked as it was revealed that, of 10,000 households that had been relocated, 40 percent had been relocated against their will” (Kassymbekova 63).

The completion of the First Five-Year Plan brought with it a Party cleansing of “national cadres throughout the Soviet Republics” (Kassymbekova 111), and the situation in Tajikistan was no different. In 1933, as the First Five-Year Plan wound down and the resettlement plan in Tajikistan came to a close, members of the Fourth Congress of the Executive Committee in Tajikistan were invited to “publicly denounce and purge their republican government leaders Nusratullo Maksum of the Central Executive and Abdurakhim Khodzhibaev of the council of People’s Commissars,” as it was thought that Tajikistan had not made enough progress in fulfilling the goals of the First Five-Year Plan (111). Maksum was accused by party members of wanting to free people from cotton campaigns to allow them to grow grain to stave off starvation, as well as terrorizing local populations and using violence to fulfill resettlement and collectivization (119). Little more than show trials, these meetings made clear that members of the party had used contacts with the Secret Police to raise concerns about both men. Nusratullo and Khodzhibaev were removed from their posts after meeting with Stalin in late 1933 in Moscow and transferred to different posts within the Soviet Union (122-123). Unlike Khodzhibaev, whose outcome is inferred due to the political climate in 1937 and 1938, we know that Maksum was sentenced to death in 1937 during the purges and executed in either 1937 or 1938 (Bashiri 106).

Like many other figures blacklisted and purged during the period of Soviet rule, Maksum’s image has undergone rehabilitation, and he is afforded a place of honor in Tajik history. Today, Maksum is considered a “Hero of Tajikistan” and even appears on their 200 Somoni bank note (“Nusratullo Maksum”).

200 Tajikistani Somoni Banknote, Tajikistan, with Portrait of Nusratullo Maksum, Issued in 1910

Contributor: Charles True

Works Cited:

Kassymbekova, Botakoz. Despite Cultures: Early Soviet Rule in Tajikistan, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016.

Khalid, Adeeb. Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR, 1st ed., Cornell University Press, 2016.

“Nusratullo Maksum.” – Drug Control Agency under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Accessed 7 Jan. 2023.

Ritter, William S. “Revolt in the Mountains: Fuzail Maksum and the Occupation of Garm, Spring 1929.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol 25, no. 4, 1990, pp. 547-580. Sage, Accessed 7 Jan. 2023.

Teichmann, Christian. “Wildscapes in Ballyhooland: Shock Construction, Soviet Colonization, and Stalinist Governance.” Cahiers Du Monde Russe, vol. 57, no. 1, 2016, pp. 221–46. JSTOR, Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.